For over 25 years I’ve watched films in the finest screening rooms in Los Angeles, New York, Cannes, Paris….all over. The sound, projection and butt-comfort qualities have been sublime at 90% of them. (Paris screening rooms have the best seats — velvety, armchair-sized, sofa-soft. The rear seats at Sony’s high-altitude screening room in Madison Avenue are almost as good.) The point is that I’ve been to screening-room Shangri-la hundreds of times and I know how good it can get, and there’s no way I’d pay $35 bucks to see a movie at a Village Roadshow Gold Class Cinema.
None of the private rooms I’ve been to have projection qualities that exceed what you get at L.A.’s Arclight, where a ticket costs $14 on weekends and $11 on Sundays and weekdays. Why the hell would anyone with my champagne tastes pay two to three times that amount to see a perfectly projected film in a really terrific seat with my feet on an ottoman? I wouldn’t pay $35 to see a film if they threw in a complimentary neck or back massage. I wouldn’t pay $35 bills for a film if they had naked girls as ushers. Well, maybe.
And yet a team of investors — Village Roadshow Ltd., Act III, Lambert Entertainment and the Retirement Systems of Alabama pension fund — are dead serious about spending $200 million to build 50 super-theaters over the next five years. Each theatre will offer 40 reclining armchair seats with footrests, digital projection and the capability to screen 2-D and 3-D movies. The first two venues set to open will be in South Barrington, Illinois, and the Seattle suburb of Redmond in October. Others are planned for Fairview, Texas, near Dallas-Fort Worth, and Scottsdale, Ariz.
I see disaster. The same nouveau-riche money-to-burn types who won’t blink about paying $$70 for two people to see a new film have, of course, top-of-the-line screening facilities at home. I would go so far to call this a stupid idea.